Emirates to let dozens of employees go amid streamlining

Travelers wait at an Emirates Airlines ticket desk at JFK International Airport in New York, US, on March 21, 2017.
Travelers wait at an Emirates Airlines ticket desk at JFK International Airport in New York, US, on March 21, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI (BLOOMBERG) - Emirates is letting go dozens of employees as the Persian Gulf carrier continues a push to streamline after years of rapid growth, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The world's biggest long-haul airline is scaling back senior cabin crew as well as the support department workforce including administration and IT, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as the information isn't public. The cuts at Emirates, which froze hiring last summer and hasn't taken on new crew in months, began in the last few weeks and affect middle and upper-level managers, they said.

Emirates said there is no companywide program to reduce headcount.

"Recruitment has slowed down as we streamline our operations, introduce new technologies, and find ways to better deploy existing resources internally," a spokeswoman said in an emailed response to questions. "However, we continue to hire for critical roles."

Emirates Group, which includes the airline and other travel and tourism entities, increased its workforce 11 percent in the fiscal year ended March 31 to more than 105,000 employees.

Gulf airlines have had to adapt to tougher business conditions after years of expansion, with challenges ranging from the US ban on travelers from predominantly Muslim countries to reduced spending power in the region due to low oil prices. Emirates, which last year posted its first annual profit drop since 2012, has streamlined operations, and the company has hired an outside consultant to assist in the review, one of the people said.

Abu-Dhabi based competitor Etihad Airways PJSC has also cut jobs amid an organizational restructuring, in an effort to reduce costs and improve productivity.

To lift revenue, Emirates has begun charging for seat selection, added fees for its airport lounges and may introduce premium-economy seats to boost sales amid waning growth in business class.

In a sign that measures taken so far have helped boost performance, Emirates President Tim Clark said in June that first-half earnings could be ahead of the year-ago period.

The airline is also considering combining with its low-cost sister FlyDubai, and examining the possibility of cooperating with discount long-haul carriers, whose rapid expansion in Asia and Europe poses a threat to its hub-based model.